Today's Reading

There's no door. Just a ladder on the wall leading to...a hatch? It's round and has a wheel-handle in the center. Yeah, it's got to be some kind of hatch. Like on a submarine. Maybe the three of us have a contagious disease? Maybe this is an airtight quarantine room? There are small vents here and there on the wall and I feel a little airflow. It could be a controlled environment.

I slide one leg off over the edge of my bed, which makes it wobble. The robot arms rush toward me. I flinch, but they stop short and hover nearby. I think they're ready to grab me if I fall.

"Full-body motion detected," the computer says. "What's your name?"

"Pfft, seriously?" I ask.

"Incorrect. Attempt number two: What's your name?" I open my mouth to answer.


"Incorrect. Attempt number three: What's your name?"

Only now does it occur to me: I don't know who I am. I don't know what I do. I don't remember anything at all.

"Um," I say.


A wave of fatigue grips me. It's kind of pleasant, actually. The computer must have sedated me through the IV line.

"...waaaait..." I mumble.

The robot arms lay me gently back down to the bed.

* * *

I wake up again. One of the robot arms is on my face. What is it doing?!

I shudder, more shocked than anything else. The arm retracts back to its home in the ceiling. I feel my face for damage. One side has stubble and the other is smooth.

"You were shaving me?"

"Consciousness detected," the computer says. "What's your name?"

"I still don't know that."

"Incorrect. Attempt number two: What's your name?"

I'm Caucasian, I'm male, and I speak English. Let's play the odds. "J- John?"

"Incorrect. Attempt number three: What's your name?"

I pull the IV out of my arm. "Bite me."

"Incorrect." The robot arms reach for me. I roll off the bed, which is a mistake. The other tubes are still connected.

The butt tube comes right out. Doesn't even hurt. The still-inflated catheter yanks right out of my penis. And that does hurt. It's like peeing a golf ball.

I scream and writhe on the floor.

"Physical distress," says the computer. The arms give chase. I crawl along the floor to escape. I get under one of the other beds. The arms stop short, but they don't give up. They wait. They're run by a computer. It's not like they'll run out of patience.

I let my head fall back and gasp for breath. After a while, the pain subsides and I wipe tears from my eyes.

I have no idea what's going on here. "Hey!" I call out. "One of you, wake up!"

"What's your name?" the computer asks.

"One of you humans, wake up, please."

"Incorrect," the computer says.

My crotch hurts so bad I have to laugh. It's just so absurd. Plus, the endorphins are kicking in and making me giddy. I look back at the catheter by my bunk. I shake my head in awe. That thing went through my urethra. Wow.

And it did some damage on the way out. A little streak of blood sits on the ground. It's just a thin red line of—

* * *

I sipped my coffee, popped the last fragment of toast into my mouth, and signaled the waitress for my check. I could have saved money by eating breakfast at home instead of going to a diner every morning. Probably would have been a good idea, considering my meager salary. But I hate cooking and I love eggs and bacon.

The waitress nodded and walked over to the cash register to ring me up.

But another customer came in to be seated right that moment.

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